International fund for Animal Welfare
The Call of the Wild: One of the largest wildlife defense funds in the world proves its commitment to holistic sustainability with a new headquarters on a green campus.
After a failed first attempt to develop a green headquarters, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) wanted nothing to do with LEED certification. The non-profit animal protection fund attempted in the late 1990s to construct a hi-tech LEED-certified office on Cape Cod, a project that fizzled out due to cost overruns and approval delays. The board of directors blamed LEED benchmarks for much of the trouble. When the project came back to life under designLAB Architects, the client gave several directives for designing the 50,000-square-foot headquarters. They required that it embody the spirit of the Cape without seeking LEED certification or employing renewable energy. Project Architect Sam Batchelor, AIA, says the client “gave us the instruction to build cheaply and do the right thing for the environment. But don’t be slaves to this process.”
Based on what you have seen and read about this project, how would you grade it? Use the stars below to indicate your assessment, five stars being the highest rating.
The above goals were complicated by the siting. IFAW negotiated the purchase of a brownfield site in Yarmouth Port, inside the Old King’s Highway historic district, a protected aquifer. This designation was itself a hurdle to building anything, and intense collaboration with and approval from the Cape Cod Commission was required for any proposed design. The brownfield was also far more contaminated than the seller initially admitted. Inspections turned up heavy metals and assorted refuse in the ground, including motorcycles, truck chassis, and mercury batteries. In a brave move, IFAW decided to keep the property and go ahead with the design, cleaning and repacking 80 percent of existing soil. Though costly, this good-faith effort greatly streamlined the approval process and saved IFAW over $800,000 in projected mitigation and legal fees.
Grounds were completely rehabilitated and landscaped to mesh seamlessly with the surrounding environment. Because renewable energy solutions were off the table, designLAB focused instead on the open land around the building. Bio-swales, rain gardens, and a wastewater septic system filter stormwater and provide irrigation to the grounds. The parking lot was specially constructed out of white crushed stones rolled in asphalt, which integrate with the stormwater system and reduce heat-island effects with reflectivity. Grounds are open to the public, and a trail takes visitors through the property, over boardwalks and marshes, with information kiosks about local plants and wildlife situated along the way.
Another challenge involved combining five distinct offices into one, while also shrinking the overall square footage. After initial interviews revealed potential conflicts among staff, designLAB rethought their approach. The director of the company had mandated that IFAW switch to a transparent open office plan. Most workers balked at the proposal, but designLAB came up with the “scrabble board” process—all employees received a piece that represented their workstation, and together the architects and workers organized a floor plan on a large interactive display. Most employees walked away from the exercise satisfied. Batchelor states that “they took ownership of the process and were much more active about describing and creating space that they would enjoy and appreciate.”
Design of the structure responded to the building code for the historic district, both in terms of maximum allowable square footage and site integration. The landscape architect, Steven Stimson, took the design team on a field trip to Bartlett farm, one of the oldest operating farms on the Cape, where they toured what Principal-in-Charge Bob Miklos, FAIA, describes as “an absolutely beautiful example of the simple relationship of farming and man to the natural landscape.” With that inspiration, the architects designed the IFAW building with three volumes modeled after simple barn volumes. They discovered that hanging the curtainwall and cantilevered walkway from a roof overhang reduced structural stress.
Though the exterior honors the land forms of Cape Cod, the interior pays respect to the sea. Pinned to the wall of designLAB’s office is an image of the iconic Herreshoff 12 ½-foot yacht. The boat inspired the aesthetic choices, leading to a warm, wood-finished interior with nautical flourishes, like the acoustic “sails” that hang adventurously over workstations. To compensate for the new modular open office layout, designLAB provided various elevated semi-transparent meeting rooms, including both private and communal meeting areas, to maximize interaction.
While initially wary of the LEED standard, IFAW thawed to pursuing certification when designLAB revealed that they were tracking LEED Silver and could reach LEED Gold with only a marginal cost increase. IFAW went for it, and achieved Gold in October 2008, at a remarkable $220 per square foot. Reflecting on the design process, Miklos is proud that designLAB successfully employed “practical, low-tech, 18th/19th-century planning ideas about orientation, use of natural light, and use of natural ventilation, instead of more sophisticated systems like photovoltaics.”
share: more »